Friday, 30 November 2012

Pizza - leek/roquefort and sundried tomato/aubergine/mozzarella

Leek and Roquefort pizza
A few years ago, my lovely husband acquired a pizza dough recipe from an Italian friend of his (Guisceppe - I don't suppose you're reading but, if you are, we love you and your pizza recipe!), and we've used it regularly ever since.  It produces perfect (Italian-style, thin crust) pizza every time. 

I reproduce it below as given to us as, frankly, his directions are a lot more precise than mine.

Aubergine, sundried tomato and mozzarella pizza
Usually, we slightly ruin the purity of the recipe by piling it high with all kinds of things.  Oh, we have onions, let's put those on, look we've got half a jar of olives left over from caponata, we'll pile those on, oooh but we have that bit of gorgonzola..  etc, etc.  Our pizzas are usually half pizzas, half mountains.  Anyway. 

This time we decided - for no particular reason - that we'd try to be a bit more focussed and so we we went for one pizza with white sauce, leek and roquefort and one with tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes/aubergines/mozzarella.  We fried up the leeks before putting them on the pizza and roasted the aubergine slices.

They were Good.  

Leek and Roquefort pizza
Sundried tomato, aubergine and mozzarella pizza

Pizza dough

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Restaurant review - Androuet, Shoreditch

I felt a bit disloyal to L'Art Du Fromage going to Androuet.  I could make excuses like, Androuet is closer and cheaper but, really, I'd still feel guilty so what's the point?

Androuet was great, though, very similar to L'Art Du Fromage in many ways - the cheesy aroma of the place, the fondue, etc, etc.  Lovely atmosphere and service, especially.  We all had the fondue so I can only comment on that - it was really good but (in my view) not quite as nice as the fondue at L'Art Du Fromage, I think what it was lacking was the brandy that L'Art Du Fromage uses.  Though, on the other hand, it was a) considerably cheaper b) came with crudites and charcuterie as well as bread and c) you could order it individually if you wanted which, I think, is a big bonus.  There are a few main courses on the menu that I'd like to try too, like the poached duck eggs & cheese rosti, wild mushrooms, truffle sauce.

Definitely one I'll be coming back to.  Though, of course, just to be fair, I'll also be going to L'Art Du Fromage again too.  Nothing to do with All.The.Cheese.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Restaurant review - Perseverance - Edgware Road

We went to Perseverance for dinner because we wanted to go somewhere within very easy walking distance of the Cockpit Theatre and that, for some reason, is located in a weird no restaurant land.  A mile to the north, many lovely Lebanese places, a mile to the south, the posh places of Marylebone, but directly around the Cockpit Theatre, nothing at all.  Who knows?

Anyway.  Having not very graciously at all decided to go there on grounds that it seemed to be the only place that was remotely close enough to the theatre to make sensible, it was actually very nice.   For some reason, looking at reviews, Timeout seem to be the only people who dislike the place, as everyone else notes, it has an inventive menu that is well executed.  The atmosphere was nice, fairly quiet, good service, though I always find it weird to have table service for drinks in a pub.  Vegetarian options were fairly minimal - just the one main course option but as it was a very nicely done risotto, I was pretty ok with that.  I particularly liked that the apertif on the menu (an elderflower bellini) was actually priced quite reasonably (£4) for London and so I didn't feel like a total spendthrift for having it.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Restaurant review - Cafe Amisha, Bermondsey

Cafe Amisha is just down the road from us and our default place to go when we're feeling too tired to cook.  Every time I go there, I forget how nice it is.  In my head, I always think of it as a "standard Italian" but it's much more than that.  It's like a standard Italian restaurant in Italy.  There are no surprises on the menu, everything you would expect to find at a trattoria in Italy is there.  But everything is lovely.  The food is freshly prepared with attention to detail.  The service is friendly but not obtrusive.  The wine list is good.  The atmosphere is nice, tables not to close together, etc.  It's great value - no more expensive than the chain Italians but much nicer. It always cheers me up after a hard day. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Caponata in gram flour pancakes

For some reason, I have never attempted to make caponata before.  I don't know why.  It combines many of my favourite things:  aubergines; olives; capers; tomatoes. 

I think it may be because I first had it, when cooked by my Italian best friend at university, who has been one of the big influences on me cooking-wise.  I wish I could say the same were true vice versa but I fear she still thinks I'm a barbarian with no tastebuds because of my general love for strong flavours.  It's not that she did a bad job when cooking it, it's more that I realised through cooking with her a lot that I just plain understood very little about non-Gujarati food at 18 and I found it all rather intimidating.
Funny-looking aubergine

Anyway.  I bought a funny-looking aubergine (see right) at the supermarket the other day - yes, I did buy it basically because it was funny-looking, yes, I do have a mental age of about 7 - and I thought I'd give it a go.

Anyway.  Caponata.  I went for a combination of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe, a vague recollection of what my Italian friend did, and whim.

I chopped an onion, a couple of sticks of celery and three cloves of garlic.  Fried for a few minutes  Then added a tin of reasonably nice Italian tomatoes, some chopped green olives and some capers. 

onion, celery and garlic
chopped aubergines

Did a bit of seasoning at this stage (and tweaked and tasted at the end)-  some balsamic vinegar (about 3 table spoons) and about 4 table spoons of sugar.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggested only a table spoon of sugar but, to me, that just didn't taste quite right so I kept adding more until it did, and obviously salt and black pepper.  Left to reduce for around 15 minutes. 

Frying aubergines

While that was reducing, I chopped up a couple of aubergines into relatively small pieces (about 1.5 cm square) and fried until golden in some olive oil. 

I then combined the aubergine with the onions/celery/tomato mixture, Topped it with fresh parsley.  Though, I did think belatedly that rosemary would have been nice as well and might be worth a try next time.

gram flour pancakes batter
For no particular reason, I decided that it would be good to have the caponata in pancakes and I haven't made gram flour pancakes for ages, so that's what I went for.  Went for a gram flour/plain flour mix - 2:1 ratio - added a dash of milk, and then enough water to make it a pouring consistency (just slightly thicker than single cream), spiced it a bit with salt, chilli flakes and black pepper.

gram flour pancake about to be filled with caponata
Heated up about a table spoon of olive oil in a large frying pan, cooked the pancakes (it takes around a couple of mins each side, depending obviously on how thick you want your pancakes), filled them with the caponata and put them in the oven for about 5 mins to warm through before serving.

It was pretty good.  Nice fun dish to cook on a Sunday afternoon.  In retrospect, I'm not sure that it's really worth bothering with the pancakes - I think bread would have been just as nice with the caponata and a bit less of a faff but I like my gram flour pancakes so I don't really repine!

Gram flour pancakes with caponata